Publisher: Other Press LLC
Publication Date: 3 June 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
I'll Be Right There is a powerful and moving story about friendship, loss and young love set in 1980s South Korea. Alongside the setting there are also tremors of political revolution and the demonstrations of quests for democracy and freedom.
Filled with lyrical prose throughout the story, author Kyung-Soon Shin tells us a beautiful yet a sad story of Jung Yoon, a highly literate twenty-something young woman's journey of growing up and her relationship with her three closest friends - Dahn (her childhood friend), Myungsuh and Muri; a boy and a girl she knew from college respectively.
Captured the innocence of youth, the characters' mixed feelings of growing up and seeing life as it is. There are some touching moments when Jung Yoon mentioned about her mother, who knew that her days were numbered, sent her to live with her cousin in the city as she didn't want Jung Yoon to see her suffering. Jung Yoon, on the other end, thinks otherwise.
While there are tough times, there are also tender moments when I read about Dahn's letters to Jung Yoon during his army service as he poured out his feelings to her, as well as reading Myungsuh's journal about his thoughts in general. I felt I could read into their minds reading through those words.
Then there are joy, sorrow, despair . . . when Myungsuh told Jung Yoon his love for her is as much as those emotions he experienced through different stages of his life when he was younger. And then, there is Muri as she recalls to Jung Yoon how she had lost her elder sister when she ended her life after learning that her boyfriend would never return, due to the demonstration and he may be part of it.
I'll Be Right There is Jung Yoon's memories of her past; a highlight of her fragile and emotional experiences in an era filled with uncertainty and anxiety. What makes this story a poignant read is not only the characterisations but the way how they would make you feel as you read about their lives, which was written so beautifully that I felt a sense of melancholy reading them. It is a thought-provoking read about life and relationships, and finally never hesitate to hold out to the person you think who might need it, hence the title "I'll Be Right There". I want to say Ms. Shin is a great storyteller; aside from the characterisations, she also has a talent for noticing the detail that characterises the particular situation she describes.
Finally, I want to applaud the translator, Sora Kim-Russell, for the translation of this work. Although I couldn't compare the translation to the original work, I want to say it read smoothly and that at times I even forgot I was reading a translation version.
Please Look After Mom, which is the author's previous book, would be onto my to-read list.
Note: The Chinese translation of "I'll Be Right There" is ＂我们不要忘记今天＂〜 申京淑.